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Cherry Picking During a Global Pandemic

Photo: North Star Organics Facebook
Photo: North Star Organics Facebook

Cherry season is now over for Michigan, and orchards had to adjust their u-pick practices for the pandemic.

North Star Organics in Frankfort, Mich. prepared for months for the u-pick season they weren’t sure was going to happen. According to owner Cheryl Kobernik, they couldn’t have done it without help from another red crop.

“Our thanks to the strawberry industry in particular because they paved the way in sorting through some of the issues of how to have a u-pick operation with a pandemic going on,” she said. “We followed a lot of their guidelines and looked at websites and then came up with that we would in fact have a u-pick operation.”

They communicated with customers that they would need to comply with CDC guidelines. That didn’t stop people from coming to the farm in record numbers.

“On our first opening day July 22, we had 1,000 people come through our small farm,” said Kobernik. “We have never had that large of a first day opening ever, and it was at least 30 percent more than what we’ve ever had.”

Kobernik and her family took several proactive measures to ensure everyone was safe and stopping the spread of COVID.

“We had handwashing stations, port-a-potty, hand sanitizer,” she said. “I purchased buckets because I didn’t know what they were going to pick into and sanitize. We ended up getting food grade ice buckets and asked them they picked into them. They put them on the scale, we wrote the weight and they cashed out, so we never touched the bucket.”

Harvest wrapped up the end of July. Kobernik said she’s optimistic for a great harvest in 2021.